King Kamehameha Kona Beach Resort: Our Review of the Big Island Luxury Resort

The only Kailua-Kona hotel with a sandy white beach, the recently renovated King Kamehameha Kona Beach Resort is the perfect place to stay on the Big Island of Hawaii, especially for a honeymoon, romantic vacation, or destination wedding.

This upscale resort is conveniently located in the heart of Kona, walking distance to restaurants, shops, and activities but in a little oasis nestled just off Ali’i Drive. The grounds are gorgeous, with tropical landscaping throughout and a protected cove beach with soft white sand and shallow, crystal clear water. Set next to a lush private estate, it’s very peaceful.

You’ll feel welcomed by the friendly staff, who greet you with “aloha” and hand you a lovely seashell lei when you check in. You also get reusable water bottles and there are refilling stations on each floor and throughout the hotel with purified, delicious water. During my recent stay here, I really appreciated the extra touches like that.

A daily resort fee covers a lei upon arrival, two reusable water bottles, high speed WiFi, two Mai Tais, two beach chairs and an umbrella, an hour’s use of snorkel gear for two, nightly live entertainment, 24-hour fitness center, and access to the rec room.

Since this is a Courtyard by Marriott property, it’s part of the Bonvoy rewards program. If you have a car, there is parking available onsite.

Read on for my full King Kamehameha Kona Beach Resort review.

Amenities and Activities

This unique hotel is not only beautiful, it also has a rich history and cultural significance. It’s named for King Kamehameha the Great because it is set on the grounds that he ruled Hawaii from after he unified all the islands. He was revered for his wisdom, and it’s a testament to his ability that the kingdom stayed united after his passing in 1819.

In fact, the grounds hold a National Historic Landmark: Ahu’ena Heiau, which you can see on a platform out in the bay. This is a 2/3 size reconstruction of the original heiau that stood nearby which was used by King Kamehameha to meet with his council about important issues and educate his heir. A vital cultural site, it’s still being used for traditional purposes today.

The resort also features fascinating displays about Hawaiian history and culture throughout the hotel and the grounds, including a large collection of Hawaiian art and artifacts. An onsite cultural center that offers unique activities like lei-making lessons, hula lessons, historic cultural tours, and more.

There’s plenty of space at this resort, which spans several low-rise buildings. Even if it’s busy you can find a spot to relax, both outdoors and indoors. The expansive lobby has plenty of comfortable seating and a serene atmosphere, and you’ll find quiet corners tucked away throughout.

Outside, you can choose from the pool and poolside bar and grill, beach, formal gardens, and green space along the water, as well as a great patio with seating outside the restaurant that overlooks the beach.

And it’s such a lovely beach! The small cove is protected on all sides and features soft white sand lined with swaying palm trees. The shallow swimming area has clear, calm water that’s a beautiful aqua color, contrasting with the deep blue of the bay. Lounge on the sand under an umbrella or on a daybed in a private cabana sipping a tropical drink. Cabana rentals are available from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and there’s food and beverage service.

The Kona Boys shack has watersports equipment available for rental including surfboards, kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and outrigger canoes. You can also get lessons—and if you choose to go out in an outrigger canoe, you’ll be shown how to paddle it, then get a guided tour of the bay and learn about local history.

Guests get a card good for a complimentary hour’s use of snorkel equipment, as well as for daily beach chairs and umbrella (subject to availability).

In addition to the beach, there’s a sizeable lawn surrounded by lush tropical landscaping that stretches out along the side of the water. All of this area features beautiful views of the bay and back toward Kona and Mt. Hualalai behind it.

The infinity pool is set just off the beach and overlooks the water. There are loungers and umbrellas all around it as well as a whirlpool, and towels are provided. Next to it is the Billfish Poolside bar and grill, so you don’t have to go far for a drink or bite to eat. There’s live music here every evening, as well as happy hour specials.

Two tennis courts are open daily as well as a pro shop. You can also go out on a submarine tour of the bay, go parasailing, or take a catamaran cruise.

After a full day enjoying all the Big Island has to offer, you can recharge at the spa, which offers a variety of treatments as well as a steam room and sauna. There’s also an onsite yoga studio where you can take group or private classes, in addition to a large fitness center. The studio hosts sunrise yoga classes each morning.

The resort has an ABC store selling a huge variety of supplies, snacks, and souvenirs, plus an art gallery and several gift shops. Every evening there’s a ceremony as dusk falls and the tiki torches are lit, casting their romantic glow and lending a magical air to the property as the sun sets.

And of course, every visitor to Hawaii should see at least one luau. The onsite Island Breeze Luau is fantastic, with traditional Polynesian dances, music, and activities along with fresh Hawaiian dishes and a full bar. It’s held on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings and you must make a reservation in advance.

This luau has been named “Best of the West Hawaii” since 2000, and I can see why. I was blown away by the performers as well as the food. Not only was it a fun experience, but I learned a ton about the history of Hawaii and Polynesian culture.

First you check in at the cultural center and get a beautiful fresh flower lei, then stroll down to the luau grounds overlooking the bay as tiki torches flicker and traditional Hawaiian music plays. You’re shown to your seat (separate tables rather than group seating), and then you can fill your plate with a huge assortment of luau feast specialties, elegantly presented.

Some activities are available as people are getting their food, including traditional Hawaiian games and temporary tattoos, and then the show starts with an introduction about luau culture and the Hawaiian tradition of hospitality, followed by an entertaining hula lesson.

Themed “We Are Ohana (Family),” the rest of the show featured the story of how Hawaii was originally settled and how it is related to the other Polynesian cultures. Each was represented by an intricate and unique dance, beautifully performed by dancers in colorful costumes reflecting what that culture traditionally wore.

The highlight for me was the astonishing fire knife dance, which was done so skillfully that he made it look easy. The musicians were also super talented, and it all combined to transport you completely. It felt even more special to watch this on the site where King Kamehameha actually lived.

The food was fantastic. You get a wide selection of traditional Hawaiian feast dishes like kalua roast pork, poi, lomi salmon, poke, and purple sweet potatoes in a coconut glaze in addition to salad, and some kid-friendly options like mac-n-cheese and chicken tenders. The delicious desserts included guava chiffon cake, purple sweet potato haupia pie, macadamia nut oat bar, and pineapple upside down cake.

There’s also a full bar, and the luau is all you can eat and all you can drink. It lasts for two hours.

Restaurants and Bars

Ocean-view restaurants include the open-air Billfish Poolside Bar & Grille and Honu’s on the Beach, which has indoor and outdoor seating. Billfish is a casual restaurant by the pool that has breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day along with happy hour specials. Four nights a week you can also enjoy live music here.

Honu’s offers an impressive and delicious breakfast buffet every morning and is open for dinner on Saturday nights with a seafood and prime rib buffet. You can sit inside or out on the patio and enjoy the beautiful water views and breezes. In the evenings, fire pits are lit and you can lounge around them on comfy sofas.

You can also get an authentic Hawaiian Shave Ice at Ululani’s, or savor the amazing fresh-roasted Kona coffee, pastries, and light bites at Menehune Coffee Company.

Rooms and Suites

Having undergone a full renovation in 2020, each of the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Resort’s 455 spacious rooms and suites are contemporary and luxurious. They all offer private balconies with either resort or water views. Choose from two queen beds or a king bed and a sofabed. The oceanview and oceanfront rooms give you fabulous views of the beach and Kailua Bay.

You can also upgrade to a 737-square-foot one-bedroom oceanfront suite with separate living area, 2 bathrooms, and 2 lanais.

I stayed in an oceanfront room with king bed and incredible views of the beach and grounds as well as Kona and the mountainside. In addition to the jawdropping beauty in the daytime, it was really pretty at night with the lights twinkling across the water. I enjoyed having that delicious Kona coffee on the balcony in the morning as I watched the sun rise over the mountain.

The room was spacious, the bed was very comfy, and I loved the separate seating area with sofa as well as the nice workstation and sizeable dresser with drawers. The bathroom was large and had a shower and tub, which is getting increasingly rare these days. There was also a big closet, a minifridge, a flat screen TV, and a coffeemaker–plus a unique touch that really made me happy: sticky notes!

Destination Weddings

King Kamehameha Kona Beach Resort offers an extraordinary setting for weddings, and the staff loves to work closely with couples to create customized celebrations of any size, from 10 to 600 guests. You can choose from multiple lovely locations for your ceremony, reception, and associated events like rehearsal dinners and brunches. There is a wedding and events coordinator on staff, and the executive chef will happily work with you to design the perfect menus.

The beautiful cove beach is available for magical ceremonies on the sand. There are also several sites on the lushly landscaped grounds along the waterfront, including the luau grounds overlooking the bay and the sacred Ahu’ena Heiau. While any area will be private, this is particularly nice because it has gates that can be closed and is completely separate from the rest of the resort. It can hold up to 400 guests.

Staff can also arrange special events like surprise engagements, with a blanket, rose petals, and champagne at any site on the grounds. Indoor spaces include a private dining room off of the main restaurant that features water views through large windows, as well as the open-air section of the restaurant itself (available on nights when it doesn’t serve dinner). What’s nice about this is that there is a lovely patio area with comfortable couches and firepits, perfect for guests to relax.

There is also a large indoor ballroom that opens onto a pre-event space looking out on the front courtyard; this holds up to 375 people but can be divided into smaller rooms.

Unique touches could include the arrival of the bride by outrigger canoe, or featuring a traditional Hawaiian roast pig cooked in the underground pit (“imu”), as is usually done for luaus.

The onsite spa is available for pre-wedding services, or post-wedding relaxation.

King Kamehameha Kona Beach Resort Location

This wonderful resort is centrally located in Kona town, on the beach next to the pier. It is about 20 minutes from the airport, and walking distance to everything in town.

This review written by HoneymoonAlways editor and writer Ashley Ellington Brown.

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